For Khali, an Occupier, Updated

Posted on December 22, 2011

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Its hard to write about people in one’s life; its easy to move too far towards hagiography, and even easier to accidentally smear someone’s reputation or portray them unfairly. There’s a beautiful story I learned last night about Khali and another camper—who ironically was in jail for the past month and was only released yesterday on Khali’s arraignment day. But I just don’t feel I can fairly broadcast it. I haven’t asked permission of the people it would affect most. Its enough to say that it speaks of the power of the social and political space that was created at #OGP, and that still survives, as long as two or more people share the liberated space there.

Like many of us, Khali is a difficult and complex person. His presence at #OGP reminds me of how much we take for granted as political activists, how often we forget the real people around us, and how fraught with ideological pitfalls is the real terrain of the social justice struggle. Khali Occupied before there were Occupiers, when #OGP was known as Frank Ogawa Plaza, a lonely and unfriendly wasteland for the homeless and disempowered. I think much of the conflict that Khali experienced at the camp was a product of the very legitimate antagonism he once felt [and perhaps still feels to a lesser degree] toward campers, who, perhaps in his view, arrogantly usurped the role of the marginalized.

That being said, Khali stuck around. After the last camp was destroyed by police, he continued staying in #OGP, watching over the small group of Occupiers in the interfaith community and various vigils. His arrest last week was indelibly linked to this political activity. Khali could have slept anywhere in the plaza, or elsewhere. But he’s always chosen to be part of the community there, knowing that doing so exposes him to arbitrary arrest, and that he’s a particularly vulnerable target. When police attacked the vigil keepers at #OGP last week, trying to, as City Administrator Santanna allegedly stated, “clear the plaza”, Khali was also arrested. His offense? Sitting on a blanket on a bench while waiting for a ride, according to witnesses.

While others were released on bail, Khali’s complicated past kept him in jail. At his arraignment, Occupiers found that an extra charge of felony assault was added which presumably occurred somewhere within the system over the past week. Khali’s bail was set at an offensively high bar—nearly 600,000 dollars. That’s far beyond the ability of Occupy Oakland, or its allies, to meet, unfortunately. No one knows what will happen to Khali now. I find it heartbreaking that after his own journey through a difficult life, and conquering his own demons, when he finally had the chance to—like so many of us, me included—live a life of meaning and importance to society, he could spend even more of his life incarcerated instead.

Khali’s one of the OG Occupiers now, an integral part of our movement. We need him and miss him.

We’re trying to fill the courtroom on Friday morning for his preliminary hearing to show him that we support him, that we won’t forget about him. And to show the local justice system that we consider him a political prisoner and that we don’t turn our backs on members of our movement, no matter the hardship they’re placed in.

Please fill the court room on the day of his hearing, Friday 9 am, December, 23.

Gale Shenone Hall of Justice 5672 Stoneridge Drive,
Pleasanton, California 94588

From Pleasanton BART:
Take the Dublin/Pleasanton line to the Pleasanton BART station. The courthouse is about one mile from BART. On foot, go east on Owens to Hacienda Drive and turn right. Turn left on Gibraltar and turn left on Stoneridge Drive. The courthouse is on the right in the Hacienda Business Park.

Update:

You can call the DA today and make your voice heard on Khali’s case. His legal name is Marcel Johnson and the DA’s number is 925 803 7171. You can find out more about the case here.